29 May 2004 | LiamABC
An interesting back-story to a great character
When I saw this mock-documentary about the nation's favourite convict, I was impressed. Not as much as I was impressed by the original Porridge series, but this was a very interesting insight into the whole life of Fletch - before, during and after his memorable stay at Slade Prison - and to the one person on this site who has given Porridge a negative writeup and called it obvious - get real! Porridge is anything but obvious. Comedy in a prison? Who would expect it at all? Let alone done so well! And I was only 10 when I first saw Porridge, and it was an instant hit with me - so it does appeal to younger people as well as older people. Still, you said you just don't get it. Fair enough, but give it another go, from the very start. Anyway, yes, this mock-documentary - I like it.
It manages to reunite the large majority of the cast, with the exception of Brian Wilde (Barrowclough), and those no longer with us - Richard Beckinsale (Godber), Fulton Mackay (Mackay) and Michael Barrington (Venables). David Jason (Blanco) is also absent, but that was probably a wise choice - much as I love David Jason, the chances are that the character of Blanco would be dead by now anyway.
As for the actors no longer with us, they navigated around the lack of Richard Beckinsale even better than I'd expected. There were a number of options they could have used:
1. Get another actor to play Lennie - which nobody would have wanted 2. Say Lennie had died - possible, but not the best option. After all, Lennie would be 53-54 now, and clearly looked after his health. This would have complicated things. 3. Say Lennie and Ingrid (Fletch's daughter, the two got married at the end of the spin-off series Going Straight) had got divorced. This was what I expected them to do, but they didn't.
What they actually did was have Lennie as unable to make it for an interview - Ingrid got a call from him, he was stuck in Colchester (still working as a lorry driver). Nicely done.
As for the other missing actors, they covered most of the main staff at Slade. It's a shame Brian Wilde couldn't make an appearance (anybody know why?). As such, the only "official" who did was Mr Gillespie, the oft-mentioned but never seen welfare officer.
It was very interesting to see how the other characters had got on after Porridge as well, and we caught up with most of the main ones. Curiously, Lukewarm is given the name Timothy Underwood here, however, in one episode of Porridge, he is addressed as Lewis, and also unofficially has a first name beginning with P. Another inconsistency in this show is that Fletch seemed to go into crime while still a child, while in the pilot of Porridge, his first criminal activity didn't happen until after he left school.
Inconsistencies aside, this is very entertaining - catching up with Lukewarm, Warren, McLaren (here given a first name James), Ives (also given a first name here, Bernard), and of course, Grouty. And, to be honest, it's Grout who steals the show - or should that read embezzles? You can't help but nod and chuckle as the activities of Grout, on the outside, are brought up. Harry Grout is a wonderful character, and is used here to great effect.
Equally impressive is the amount of story the writers have concocted out of so many little details from the show - most notably Fletch's affair with Gloria - "Gloria? I don't know no Gloria . . . oh yeah, there was one once! Well, lots of times actually."
Overall, I was impressed - however, it's not quite in the same league as Porridge itself. Equally, it's probably unwise to watch this if you haven't seen Porridge to begin with (I could be wrong). As such, it's a tough call on which groups to recommend it to. Overall: 7/10